It’s been more than a year since President Joe Biden took office and he still has not followed through on a major campaign promise: Tackling the student-loan crisis. When asked about the issue during a two-hour-long press conference on Wednesday, Biden dodged the question. The reporter asked if Biden would act on a plan he outlined during his campaign that included at least $10,000 of outright debt cancellation per student.
The president has not been totally mute on the matter, instead maintaining that it is up to Congress to act. Biden still supports cancellation. Earlier this month his administration extended a pandemic federal loan payment freeze for roughly 41 million borrowers until May 1. But critics say the measure falls far short of dealing with the roughly $1.7 trillion debt burden that has been a drag on the economy, hindering a generation of Americans from purchasing homes and starting families. Congress also has declined to take up the matter, punting the issue back to the White House. So, can the president, using his executive authority, cancel student-loan debt?
“It depends,” says Thomas J. Vicino, associate dean of graduate studies and professor of political science, public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern. “It’s an open legal question. The president’s executive power is generally quite broad, and obviously some Democrats have said, yes, he does have the power.”